Wally Brown says good-bye to Pierz students and staff
A teacher for 34 years, he said he has been truly blessed
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
After 34 years of teaching, most currently with the Pierz School District, Wally Brown has decided to retire.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” he said. “The idea of retirement has not affected me as yet and it won’t until August when I usually begin to get ready for the upcoming school year.”
Brown and his wife Elaine love to travel, so that is surely on his agenda.
Growing up in Burlington, Iowa, Brown was never great in school. Making it worse, his elementary teachers would tell him he would never do well. So, he didn’t.
“But, in junior high, I had a great American history teacher who said everyone in his class could get an A,” he said. “I did not believe him. But his techniques and his philosophy gave each student an opportunity to succeed and I did get my A.” It turned him around.
From that point on, Brown said he had great teachers, but it was the social studies teachers who touched him the most.
“My attitude toward school changed, I worked harder and soon was making the honor roll,” he said. “My parents were so proud.”
In high school Brown had another amazing teacher, this time in history. He said she worked very hard to help each student succeed.
It was at that point he knew he wanted to have a career in teaching.
“I received a wrestling scholarship to go to Northeast Missouri State University, then I went to Bethel College in St. Paul where I received my teaching degree,” Brown said. “I was a student teacher at Murray High School in St. Paul, and at that time, wanted to continue teaching in the inner city. But, back then there were not many teaching jobs available.”
A teaching position opened at Pine City when another instructor took a leave of absence. Brown taught there for two years until the teacher on leave returned. He continued to substitute in Pine City for two years, plus worked other jobs to make ends meet.
In 1980, Brown was hired to teach American history, civics, Minnesota history and four electives in Ogilvie. From that point on, he has continued to teach multiple subjects and said he cannot think of only teaching one.
“Ogilvie’s big selling point was it was a ‘modern’ school,” said Brown. “Pine City still used a ‘ditto’ machine, while Ogilvie had begun to use a copy machine.”
Brown was also the assistant wrestling coach and the head track coach while in Ogilvie.
“But, the best part of working at Ogilvie was meeting my wife, Elaine,” he said. “She taught second grade. We were married in 1981.”
While attending wrestling and track meets over the years at Ogilvie, Brown met several coaches from Pierz: Al Doty in wrestling; Rey Zimney in boys track coach and Karla Jensen in girls track.
“When Pierz had a history teacher position open, each one called me within two days time to tell me about the job,” he said. “I applied and got the job, along with the head wrestling coach position.”
Brown was later the volleyball coach at Pierz.
When he retired, Brown was teaching psychology, American history, economics and global studies.
Brown said he will miss the time in the classroom the most.
“I loved the times when everyone was engaged in conversations, and not necessarily on the class subject, but life in general,” he said. “Everyone laughing and enjoying the camaraderie of the moment. It was a reward and I’m not sure where I will get that now.”
Brown said school made him feel young.
Brown was asked by the student body to give a speech at the commencement exercises, the first teacher to do so.
“I was so honored to be chosen by the students to give a speech,” he said. “They gave me one last teachable moment and one last chance to interact with all of them.”
Brown said he will not miss the politics of education, the emphasis on passing tests. He said he wished schools did not have to rely on standards to teach and would just be able to teach.
Brown and Elaine, who live in Milaca, have two children, Derek, 27, a teacher and coach in Luverne and Taryn, a tracker for the DFL party.
Brown said he has been truly blessed in his career, meeting and working with outstanding people. He also wants his students to know how proud he is of each and every one of them.